Igniting our imaginations with spectacular forces and overwhelming scales, space exploration constantly reshapes how we understand ourselves and our place in the universe.
For his new work Alexander Whitley takes inspiration from the stunning images and data produced by solar science research in a collaboration with scientists from STFC RAL Space.
With a specially created score by the electroacoustic music innovator Daniel Wohl and an installation of high-definition imagery from BAFTA award-winning visual artist Tal Rosner, 8 Minutes creates a striking, immersive environment of dance, music and film to illuminate our relationship with the star that gives us life.
A former Choreographic Affiliate of The Royal Ballet and commissioned by Rambert, BalletBoyz, Birmingham Royal Ballet and Candoco, Alexander has developed a rapidly growing reputation for ambitious and intricately crafted work including his 2016 groundbreaking interactive digital work, Pattern Recognition.
The 8 Minutes project also incorporates an innovative Creative Learning Programme with workshops for local students following the production's tour and an intensive residency programme aimed at students in Year 5 (aged 9–10 years). Created with input from RAL Space scientists and the artists team, the workshops will draw on the creative process around the making of 8 Minutes, combining artistic and scientific concepts to explore the parallels between the two.
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ALEXANDER WHITLEY - Choreographer
Alexander Whitley is a choreographer with a 'mercurial imagination' (The Financial Times) whose work has been described as “scintillating” (The Times) and 'seriously interesting' (The Guardian). His choreography draws on his background in classical and contemporary dance and is noted for its strong musicality, striking visual design and groundbreaking collaborations with leaders in the fields of interactive digital technology and science. A 2014 Sky Arts South Bank Award nominee, Alexander Whitley is a New Wave Associate at Sadler’s Wells, an Associate Artist at DanceEast and Rambert, and a former Affiliate Choreographer of The Royal Ballet.
'There are few things that ignite our imaginations quite as much as space exploration, confronting us with spectacular forces, mindboggling scales and all the time reshaping how we understand ourselves and our place in the universe. I’m extremely excited to be immersing myself in this awe inspiring subject to create a compelling piece of dance.
This project is a unique opportunity to work alongside experts in space science to feed our artistic ideas and inform the creative process, revealing what I believe to be clear parallels underlying these two forms of enquiry. Looking to our sun in particular as a source of inspiration, we will explore new ways of giving life to the information and imagery being gathered on it, offering audiences a different way of engaging with scientific ideas and inviting them to share in the sense of wonder that draws us to this fascinating world of discovery.'
DANIEL WOHL - Composer
Daniel Wohl has been described as one of his generation’s ‘imaginative, skillful creators’ (New York Times). Born and raised in Paris, and currently living in Los Angeles, his music blends electronics with acoustic instrumentation and has been performed at the San Francisco Symphony Soundbox series, Chicago Symphony Orchestra's MusicNOW series and Carnegie Hall among many others. Current projects include new pieces for the Calder Quartet and the LA Philharmonic as well as performances at the Barbican and Holland Festival. In January 2016, his sophomore album was released on New Amsterdam Records to critical acclaim. Over the past few years Wohl has worked with ensembles such as the Albany Symphony Orchestra, eighth blackbird, New York Youth Symphony, So Percussion and collaborated with artists such as Julia Holter, Lucky Dragons, Laurel Halo, and Son Lux.
'We're extremely fortunate to live in a time when new discoveries from space exploration can defy our own imaginations and place us in a universe that seems even more mysterious than we ever thought possible. It's exciting to have the opportunity to collaborate on a project that reacts to data at the forefront of astrophysics, a subject I've been fascinated with since childhood.
Music has always had a great potential to evoke the inconceivable and bewildering vastness of celestial objects, while at the same time expressing our own wonder and our sense of fragility. Composers have a long history of attempting to translate into music this fascination with the cosmos from Gustav Holst's The Planets to Edgar Varese's Espace many have looked to the stars for inspiration. The movement of elemental forces within our sun, of light travelling through space, and how all of this activates the earth is fertile ground for sonic exploration, and I look forward to seeing how these insights stimulate our multimedia collaboration.
Like scientists today, artists have a great many new tools and technologies at their disposal which allow them to comprehend their environment in new ways. I'm looking forward to seeing how RAL's data translates into new electronic and acoustic timbres, textures and forms and how these will engage with Tal Rosner's visuals and Alexander Whitley's choreography.'
TAL ROSNER - Video Artist
Tal Rosner is a BAFTAwinning artist and filmmaker. His work on multidisciplinary collaborations, from orchestral music and contemporary dance to television graphics, has been described as 'most astounding' (The Times) 'ingenious' (Variety) and 'heralding a new genre' (The New Yorker). With a unique style of digital craftsmanship, he stands out at the forefront of international moving image practice, both on screen and on stage.
'Having known Alexander for a several years, we often contemplated funnelling our respective practices into a joint piece, where both dance and moving image are independent, yet magically intertwined. From within the dance world, Alexander has been continuously exploring the implementation of technology on stage, and the RAL project serves as a perfect platform for a truly collaborative, from the ground up, original project.
Working with AV specialist Nick Joyce to create an exciting installation of high definition screens on stage, I aim to present audiences with a stateoftheart video display, giving the interpolated scientific material a truthful and aweinspiring representation.
Once upon a time we were only able to imagine what the sun looked like upclose, or how our planet looked from afar. Today these images are common knowledge. In 8 Minutes, using both photographic and infographic sources, I intend to investigate and decipher scientific processes in order to ignite imaginations (e.g. sun spots and solar flares, the hidden information found in analysing the light spectrum). Moreover, I wish to encourage a deeper understanding of how these grandscale operations affect us as human beings, and how inherent they are to our everyday behavioural patterns. What parallel lines can be drawn between planetary orbits and the psychological aspects of the human condition, and what can we learn from space to enhance our understanding of ourselves? '
DR HUGH MORTIMER - Lead Scientist
Dr Hugh Mortimer started his research career at the National Physical Laboratory in the Optical and Environmental Metrology group where he worked for four years. Following this Mortimer realised he wanted to pursue a career in science and so returned to study for a doctorate in space science instrumentation at Oxford University. He now works as a research scientist at STFC’s RAL Space at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire. He currently directs his own research into the development of a novel spectrometer for the analysis of atmospheric gases, but is also involved in various other international projects including the calibration climate change monitoring instrument; the Sea and Land Surface Temperature Radiometer (SLSTR). Mortimer is especially passionate about the communication of science, its importance, its impact and its value in society. He is involved with several outreach projects which include speaking about space science, planetary atmospheres and our climate, at schools and festivals.
'The artistic and scientific processes are more alike than they are different. The processes that we use to look at the world are almost identical, however the real difference comes in how we present our findings. The scientist must represent the truth, as they see it, with no latitude to add their subjective opinion, leaving them to find the raw patterns within life, the stars and the cosmos. The artist can provide us with an interpretation that can bring that science to life, show meaning to those that are untrained and provide insight into the way that humanity understands and interacts with their surroundings.
The dance collaboration with Alexander Whitley gives a perspective to space science that can be understood by a new audience and engage with people on a level that is difficult to do when working in a purely science context. It is the artist’s unique perspective on the scientist’s objective analysis that is the most powerful aspect of this project, and why we are very excited to be a part of this.'